February 24, 2010

Duane King’s “Thinking for a Living”: Creative Destination for Everyone Passionate about Better

Like many, I’m a frequent visitor to the site Thinking for a Living since discovering it in 2008. It was created by Duane King, formerly of multidisciplinary design studio BBDK and currently of Portland-based creative studio Huge/KingCoyle, for a breakout session that he gave at the Dallas Society of Visual Communications Student Show and Conference. The site has become a sustained effort, looking at designing as an act of education and that must be practiced with passion. Here, Duane King shares thoughts about Thinking for a Living and why relationships and diversity matter to creating.

Can you please tell a little bit about yourself?
Where are you from? What do you do for a living?

I am a designer, curator, and writer, who believes that although design is a profession, it’s above all a passion. I was born and raised in the Hill Country of South Texas, but I am currently living in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Portland, Oregon, and working as Creative Director of BBDK Huge/KingCoyle. In my spare time, I work on Thinking for a Living and giving back to the design community.

What is Thinking for a Living?
Thinking for a Living is a publisher and curator of thought-provoking design content and a creator of meaningful experiences. We are about spirited creations and seeding great ideas. Good ideas benefit someone. Great ideas benefit everyone.

Thinking for a Living is also a network built on friendship, passion, and a dedication to the craft of design. The network is an alliance of like-minded individuals who are experimenting with publishing and spreading ideas through a series of topic specific sites, conferences, workshops, and publications.

How did you arrive at the decision to redesign the website
for Thinking for a Living?

Thinking for a Living is a collaborative project, and as such, I approached Frank Chimero, Ian Coyle, Bob Borden, and Shane Bzdok to discuss our goals and aspirations for the site. We tried to think ahead and create a site that was a paradigm shift in interactivity and better emphasized our original writing. With these goals in mind, and with the development support of Ian Coyle, we began to rethink the site.

What is the most rewarding part of running
Thinking for a Living?

Uniting people. I’ve said it before, but I strongly believe that collaborations with people from a wide variety of skill sets will serve to expand your view of what’s possible. Whether designers, programmers, motion graphics artists, illustrators, copywriters or photographers, the result will be a mix of cultural, economic, and creative energy that can offer true originality while testing your assumptions of how things are done.

Is there a part of working on Thinking for a Living
that is particularly trying? And how do you deal with it?

The most trying thing about working on Thinking for a Living is not letting it take over. I love working on it. We all do. Balancing our time between paid and passion projects is probably the most difficult aspect.

What are some current Thinking for a Living projects
that you’re engaging?

We’re currently in the process of creating several new web projects. Shane Bzdok is developing Design Facts, Antonio Carusone is developing a project called Design Manifesto, Ian Coyle is working on More Substance, and Frank Chimero is developing Type 101 and Design History 101. Antonio and I are also currently working on a book entitled The Grid System for Laurence King Publishing that should be released early next year. Of course, there is more—but I don’t want to spoil all of the surprises.

How do you stay creative? Do you draw? Or keep a journal?
Honestly, I don’t know any other way to be. I never tire from creating things. Sure, my mind and body give out here and there—but it’s nothing that a good night’s rest can’t fix. I do draw, but my sketches are typically shorthand and intended to communicate a concept. I don’t keep a formal journal as I feel it makes things feel too sacred. Perhaps it’s horror vacui. Nonetheless, I prefer to exist in a flurry of thoughts, Post-It notes and torn scraps of paper.

What are some of your sources of inspiration?
I don’t read design magazines or annuals. For me, inspiration comes in unexpected ways and typically from a source outside of our industry. A beautiful song. The Milky Way at night. A really good story. The space between columns of text. The foam on a cappuccino. It’s random. I simply try to keep my eyes open and see things in different ways.

What’s your advice to people who aspire to start
and grow a website?

First and foremost, it’s more work than you’d ever expect. Be deliberate and be prepared to work yourself silly. And please, if you’re going to make something, create something of value. The world doesn’t need more noise. There are far too many copy-paste sites out there that simply regurgitate information. Be mindful and thoughtful of your audience. If they are spending their valuable time with you, make it worth it.

Who should visit Thinking for a Living?
Thinking for a Living is for anyone who is curious and driven. Our audience is hungry for better. Better brands, better products, better experiences, better ideas. A better future.

Any future features or events, like panel discussion and
workshop The Practice Sessions for students in design,
you’re planning to pursue in relation to Thinking for a Living?

Yes, but I can’t discuss it currently as it’s all still in the planning stages. Unfortunately I can only tease you about it.

• • •

Images courtesy of Duane King.

• • •

Read previous Interview with Shane Bzdok of Design Facts.